What Is Visceral Osteopathy?

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  • Written By: Glyn Sinclair
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2019
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Osteopathy is a drug-free form of treatment that focuses on the musculoskeletal system, including the spine, muscles, bones and nerves. The practice of visceral osteopathy deals with the abdominal or chest organs. These can include the digestive tract as well as the lymphatic and respiratory systems. The goal is to ease the constriction between the organ tissues, and to allow them to move and operate more freely. The treatment is a holistic and uses a hands on approach, usually massage, to care for the overall health of the body system.

Stress on the body due to posture can create a tension on the internal organs and pull on the spine through the ligaments. Visceral osteopathy also asserts that diet and lifestyle can contribute to this inner tension. The treatment attempts to relax these connections and hopefully ease conditions such as deep-seated neck and back pain. By easing the internal organs, this may in turn help lymphatic flow and blood circulation. Visceral osteopathy also focuses on treatments for incontinence, carpal tunnel syndrome, difficulty swallowing, and headaches.


There are a number of people who may benefit from visceral osteopathy. Patients who have endured long periods of immobilization in hospitals may be able to recover quicker through the techniques of visceral osteopathy. People suffering through radiation treatment are said to benefit from this treatment as well. Radiation is known to dry out the body tissues and visceral osteopathy may be able to increase the circulation of fluids. The pelvic muscles and organs of mothers who have recently given birth are also thought to be helped from these treatments.

The four main techniques that osteopaths employ in visceral osteopathy are classified as direct, indirect, passive or active. With the active method, the patient performs a series of motions that are directed by an osteopath. With the passive method, the patient abstains from any muscle tension or contraction. The direct method is where the restrictive barrier — a body system that helps avert damage during a muscle contraction or spasm — is directly engaged to ease body dysfunction. The indirect method is an indirect manipulation of the afflicted organ, and attempts to move the restrictive barrier away until the tissue tension is equalized.

Andrew Taylor Still, an American physician, came up with the phrase “osteopathy” in 1874, taking from the word “osteon,” which means the basic make up of a compact bone. Still went on to found the American School of Osteopathy in Missouri, in 1892. Osteopath, Jean-Pierre Barral, further built on Still’s work to refine the practice of visceral osteopathy.


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